The successful transition from conventional to environmentally friendly production practices mandated by FQPA (Public Law 104-170) (1967) depends on comprehensive pest scouting services. In Michigan, the fruit industry has a chronic need for IPM scouts. Presently, approximately 90% of the farm workers in the blueberry industry are Hispanic/Latinos. MSU Extension and the MSU Trevor Nichols Research Complex, in an outreach effort to Hispanic/Latino blueberry farm workers, developed a bilingual blueberry IPM scout training program with a “cap stone” program that included Cross-Cultural Education and Leadership training. This program uniquely combined laboratory and field training elements. Our tentative training pilot program and course schedule was presented to a focus group of 15 blueberry growers/packers. This pilot program attracted a total of 22 trainees, 6 Hispanic/Latinos and 16 Caucasians.
One major challenge we found when recruiting Hispanic/Latinos trainees, was that in order to train them, some form of economic assistance program has to be provided to offset their loss of daily income while in training. Today’s economic climate prevents growers from investing in training their workforce. Thus, to train Hispanic/Latino farm workers and disadvantaged growers it is not enough to get a grant to develop an educational training curriculum, but some form of economic assistance has to be provided.
Keywords: IPM training, Highbush blueberries
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